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Well, it happened. We finally got our first flagged post (at least it is the first one that I'm aware of). Those of you with 2k+ reputation (or moderators) can see it by going to the tools and clicking on the Flagged tab.

I'm not going to draw unfair attention to an answer otherwise. Suffice it to say, the answer reads like a pure sales pitch, including an invitation by the author to have the OP contact them off site with any questions.

However, the product advertised could conceivably be of value to the OP and others with the same question.

I think we need to hash out some guide lines for what is and is not acceptable when it comes to promoting a site or service that you own or work for.

We also need to discuss the use of affiliate links in answers.

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While I'm not against a certain amount of on-topic self-promotion within the context of a good answer, I would say that affiliate links should unequivocally be disallowed. IMO, it really opens up Pandora's box to a lot of unneeded problems.

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I personally feel that:

  • Answers that read like a sales pitch will quickly garner enough flags that the system will automatically delete them quickly. However, during this (the beta) phase, it is conceivable that not enough eyeballs will lead to the flags continuing to re-set. Moderator discretion should apply.

  • Affiliate links should be disallowed. If you post an answer, you are doing it to be helpful and to gain the rewards that the site has to offer. SE sites should not be a venue for you to get paid, unless of course we're talking about careers.stackoverflow.com. Links that contain affiliate code should be left, but edited, with a comment left to the author.

I'm not saying that its impossible to profit from your participation on the site. If you have a long history of giving great answers, show your self as knowledgeable and have contact information in your profile, there's a very good chance that other users might contact you to do business. This is something that simple / normal use of the site facilitates, not special links or sales pitches.

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    I wouldn't go as far as banning affiliate links necessarily. If you are going to use one, though, you should have to clearly state that in your answer (or question). The moderators can suspend people who repeatedly post affiliate links without stating it. Although if it is really a problem, I wouldn't have a problem with banning them altogether. It just doesn't seem like a goos starting point. – Thomas Owens Jul 28 '10 at 23:24
  • I agree with this Tim. I can see the argument for allowing them, but when there's that kind of direct incentive, it's pretty easy for them to start showing up in marginally relevant situations. – JasonBirch Jul 29 '10 at 7:29
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Why can't something like what happens on StackOverflow happen? If you post a link to Amazon (or perhaps other sites that have similar programs), the referrer is added or changed to be the StackOverflow account. After all, aren't they the ones paying for hosting the site, paying for the domain name, and making all of this possible?

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    That would work for Amazon, indeed. But I don't think SE is a member of the numerous affiliate programs that many webmasters would be likely to join (dreamhost, media temple, etc) – Tim Post Jul 28 '10 at 12:34
  • Does it really do that? I think that's hilarious (and smart). – Virtuosi Media Jul 28 '10 at 21:09
  • True, Tim. They probably can't be a member of every affiliate program. – Thomas Owens Jul 28 '10 at 23:22
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Personally I think that outright self promotion should be disallowed ("Me/My company can do that for only $5000" or "Buy my book") whereas recommending a product is fine ("Acme CMS does exactly what you want. I have great success with it.") as long as it is a good answer to the question. Ideally the answerer should state whether he has personal experience with the product/service as well as if he owns/works for the company that creates it. As for affiliate links they are OK as long as the answerer says that it is an affiliate link. If you don't like it you can always drop the affiliation and go straight to the site. The exception is for amazon and other places that stack exchange has affiliate accounts with (hosting provider?) in those cases the link should be switched to Stack Exchanges affiliation so that we can earn them some money.

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